To Ankara on a Flying Broom...

in 25th Flying Broom International Women's Film Festival

by Ladislav Volko

It is probably no coincidence that the International Women’s Film Festival is taking place in Ankara and it is the XXV edition. With a great logo, great sound and an even better name, “Flying Broom”. It is organized by the Foundation of the same name, the Women’s Organization founded in 1996 to protect equal rights, in collaboration with the city of Ankara and other sponsors. This year, more than 60 artists from more than 30 countries took part in the festival. Unfortunately, Central Europe was not represented. Many artists came to present and discuss their works with an audience that was predominantly young. That’s why most of the Magical Fener Kizilay cinemas as well as the Dogan Tashdelen Center for Contemporary Art were full. And there was something to discuss. Many problems concerning women have a general impact and their audiovisual representations help to open up the space for analysis and possible solutions.

At the presentation of the films at the Flying Broom, it is interesting that no prizes are awarded. The only award is the FIPRESCI Critics’ Award. It also says a lot about the seriousness and importance of the festival and its focus. The festival’s dramaturgy allowed for better orientation within the topics and divided the films into several sections: “Beyond Pink and Blue” (love in various forms), “In the Family” (the problem of family coexistence), “Girlhood” (reflection upon an  important topic for the future of women), “The Unwomanly Face of War” (about women who long for peace), “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” (inhale – seeking freedom and dignity), “Untrodden Paths” (challenges and inspirations for creative processes in art). “Reclaim the frame x International” involved  a presentation of films from four women’s film festivals – ones in Great Britain, Lebanon, Tunisia and Turkey – “Women Films from Turkey” had different views of domestic creators on the values of life, and the “Special Screenings” showed special works by domestic women creators. The FIPRESCI jury (Elena Rubashevska – Ukraine, Ladislav Volko – Slovakia and Ahmed Samy Youseff – Egypt) evaluated a set of films from the section “Different Colors” – various films which really have in common what dramaturgy calls creative innovation. Their authors are winners of various awards at many international film festivals and have been positively evaluated by other critics as well.

An interesting example was a feature-length animated film by Romanian author Anca Damian called Ada (Iceland, 2022). This „Crazy musical animation” is based on the story of Robinson Crusoe, but connects Exupéry’s “The Little Prince” with the madness of Monty Python. Unusual encounters and paradoxes imbued with a lot of symbolism, surreality and absurdity, and their perfect animation of ingenious colors convinces us that time has ceased to exist.

Cavajita (2021, Dominican Republic, Argentina) is a story about the devastation of social values projected into the most intimate relationships. The creators Silvina Schnicer and Ulises Porra were carried away by an overly detailed depiction of situations that did not hold back the story, and the film had several endings.

La Chica Nueva (New Girl, 2021, Argentina) by Micaela Gonzalo depicts a class struggle, an awareness of its power as workers in a typical factory of today. The information about the film brought that the approach of the director “bears signs of a realistic political stance by Ken Loach and the Darden brothers”.

The Italian film by director Laura Samani Piccolo Corpo (Small Body, 2021) tells the story of a young girl Agatha from 1990, who, despite the customs and strict social norms of the time, wants to bury a stillborn baby girl. She goes around secretly with the stillborn hidden in a wooden box until she reaches the mountains, hoping to revive her daughter with a single breath using magic but her rebellion ends tragically.

Medusa by Anita Rocha da Silveira (Brazil 2021) is a film of the game of life. The created clichés want to expose the symbolism of the present – the struggle between good and evil, pretense, love and strength to overcome obstacles, but it did not convince me. Everything is in place, except that the film has no soul.

The strongest contestants in the line-up were documentary films: excellently twisted, meaningful stories, clear attitude of the creator. Georgian director and producer Salome Jashi shot Taming the Garden (2021) as a Swiss co-production. The super-rich buys century-old trees in the villages of Georgia and transports them to his garden, where most of them will not survive. He doesn’t care about destroying the country, the human environment, since the dominance of money knows no bounds. Cruel uprooting even of a society that allows such behavior.

Two women are in prison because they have killed their husbands who have abused them. They write letters in which they mention, confess their sins but also desires and dreams. Turkish director Ceylan Özgün Özçelik has shot an extremely captivating story about human dignity, desires and defeats, without portraying the actors (since they are sitting in prison) only through their letters, visualizing nature, the landscape. She gave it the name Witch Trilogy 15+ (Cadi Ȕҫlemesi).

The film that won Best Documentary at Cannes Film Festival 2021, Lisbon IFF and Mar del Plata Festival was A Night of Knowing Nothing (France, India, 2021) by Indian director Payal Kapadia. Through letters from a young student addressed to her loved one, we learn about the situation at the university, in the country, about dreams and harsh reality, the caste system and attempts to transcend it. A dynamic documentary depiction invites viewers to participate in an Indian student’s life of desire for truth and justice.

Mafifa: under this name, there was an excellent musician of a metal percussion instrument in Santiago de Cuba and the surrounding area, Esther Linares. This special persona died at a young age more than forty years ago. Cuban director Daniela Muñoz Barroso has made a fascinating documentary that tells of the eponymous Mafifa – a strong personality and through her about the society in which she lives, but perhaps unknowingly, about herself, as well. FIPRESCI unanimously awarded her its prize.

The “Flying Broom” had the power to show the world of beauty and evil, the dirt in human hearts, and the splendor in the desire for the world of good, through the eyes of filmmakers who enrich the current visual culture with their personal potential.

Ladislav Volko
Edited by Savina Petkova